Some news that didn’t fit

One of the outstanding features of the U.S.-led “war” on Afghanistan has been the self-censorship of the capitalist media. In the U.S. in particular, only information that fits the imperialist agenda is reported. Stories about the World Trade Center victims and their loved ones are a daily feature in the American press, while the fact that thousands of Afghan civilians were killed by the retaliatory U.S. terror-bombing is entirely ignored. Most Americans have no idea that the total number of Afghan civilian victims of the “war against terror” vastly exceeds American casualties from the 11 September 2001 attacks.

One story that definitely did not fit the requirements of the imperialist propaganda machine was that of the dockers in Sasebo, the main port for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF), who actively opposed the attack on Afghanistan. On 3 October 2001, the central executive committee of the All Japan Dockworkers’ Union passed a motion that read in part:

“As workers in the dock and transport industry, we have opposed cooperation [with the Japanese government in this] war and have fought against the Peace Keeping Operation Law and the Emergency-at-Periphery Law. We seek solidarity with peace-loving people, oppose military retaliation and will fight against the passage of the bill to support U.S. forces and Security Operation Registration.”

In late October special “anti-terrorism” legislation was rammed through the Japanese Diet to ease constitutional restrictions on the use of the MSDF to support the U.S. military. Members of the Sasebo branch of the All Japan Dockworkers’ Union held a series of rallies and sit-ins against both the “anti-terrorism” law and Japan’s involvement in the attack on Afghanistan. Union members refused to load ammunition and supplies onto MSDF vessels scheduled to resupply U.S. ships in the Indian Ocean. (The supplies were ultimately loaded by members of another union.) On 9 November 2001, the day the ships were to sail, the Sasebo dockers shut down the port for an hour to hold a protest meeting.

The exemplary actions of these workers, although isolated, limited in scale and tainted by pacifist illusions, provide a valuable reminder to class conscious trade unionists in other countries of the potential for mass labor political strikes to obstruct the bloody plans of the imperialist exploiters.

Published: 18 February 2002